Jelk’s Law, PLLC has tapped women’s advocate and attorney, Emily Ahlquist O’Donnell, as their fourth hire in just as many years. Ms. O’Donnell joins the growing Chattanooga-based boutique firm as a part-time contract attorney, assisting clients with a variety of real estate, nonprofit and business issues. The appointment comes in addition to her continuing role as executive director of the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga, the nonprofit advocacy organization she has led since 2017.
“Emily is a phenom,” said Amanda N. Jelks, founder and owner of Jelks Law. “Her legal acumen and community leadership experience make her a valuable addition to our firm. She is a major value add for our clients, and for me, as we expand our footprint outside of Tennessee.”
Ms. Jelks founded the firm in 2015 after practicing law for five years in a large regional firm. Since that time, Jelks Law has experienced growth providing legal business and estate services to residents of Tennessee - and now Georgia, as of a 2018 expansion. Ms. Jelks says Ms. O’Donnell’s hire will increase capacity for the woman and minority-owned law firm, allowing them to not only serve more clients, but provide an even better experience for existing clients.
Ms. O’Donnell brings more than a decade of legal experience to the Jelks team. She earned her undergraduate degree in political science at The University of the South, and her juris doctor from Georgia State University, where she graduated with honors in 2008. Her legal and advocacy career began that year at Legal Aid of East Tennessee, where she practiced law for eight years as a staff attorney, representing clients in a variety of civil legal cases in General Sessions, Circuit, and Chancery courts in 12 Tennessee counties and the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Ms. O’Donnell advised on legal issues in her subsequent two-year role as vice president of External Affairs at the Public Education Foundation, and her current executive director position at the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga requires a wide range of her legal skills, from drafting legislation to lobbying the Tennessee legislature.
Ms. Jelks and Ms. O’Donnell have crossed paths in the community for years, even outside of their legal work. Both were designated as a “20 Under 40” in 2017 by the Chattanooga Times Free Press in their annually published list of accomplished young professionals, both have dedicated service to nonprofit boards with similar missions supporting women, and both even had children in the same daycare center.
“I’m excited to work with Amanda,” said Ms. O’Donnell of her new role. “Amanda has a great reputation for excellent client service, which is very important to me, and she serves this community well. I’m also excited to keep my legal skills sharp. I really enjoy practicing law; from meeting with clients, to reviewing documents, to trying cases in court. I’m looking forward to all of it.”
Ms. O’Donnell says her role as executive director at the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga will not change. “I consider myself enormously blessed to be able to continue the important work of the Women’s Fund, while also practicing law and serving the clients of Jelks Law,” she says. “I’m always telling my daughters the only limitations they have are those they place on themselves; that all others can be overcome. By really leaning in to my professional passions of both law and advocacy in this way, I’m turning those words into actions from which I hope my daughters will learn.”